Where were you when the Spirit Blew Through?
©2021 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
If they say about real estate is all about location, location, location,
I would say about reading Scripture that it’s all about
context, context, context.
It’s what makes the Bible so perennially fascinating,
so spiritually powerful; that we can read a text
on a sunny day and see sunshine in the text,
and we can read the same text in the midst of a storm,
and see the storm in the text emerge too.
Like Psalm 23, when life is grand,
do we notice the pleasant pastures and the banquet,
grateful for the same blessing in our own lives?
But when life threatens,
the same psalm’s promise of God’s comforting presence
in Death’s shadowed valley is what foregrounds itself,
so that we can draw on that same strengthening presence of God.
When some of us met on Zoom ten days ago to explore
this familiar text, after reminiscing about those high holy
festive Pentecosts past at Cedar Park,
we couldn’t help but be perplexed, disturbed,
unsettled by the juxtaposition of this text,
about crowds in Jerusalem’s streets,
some of whom jeered at others based on the way
they looked,and sounded,
a text that records Peter’s LOUD
proclamations of blood and fire,
and the great and glorious day of the Lord…
when now, Jerusalem’s streets, and those of Gaza,
are once again hurled into violence.
There was little we could do with this
except to pause and pray… as we will do today.
There were other things we noticed too,
more personal, close to home.
Disciples who gathered behind closed doors,
fearful of what their future would be
as followers of a dead-and-gone,
yet somehow risen Lord.
Disciples nervous to venture outside again.
Waiting… for what….
Did they even know?
One question we asked ourselves
is the one we ask this morning;
if we’d been there,
where would we have been in this story?
Would we be in that ‘place’ that house where
the followers of Jesus were sitting.
Inside, while the Festival of Shauvot,
with its thanksgiving for the first harvest,
its celebration, with new wine
of God’s gift of Torah,
was going on outside.
Would that be a first century equivalent
of trying to hold a prayer meeting in the Tim’s
on Bishop and St Catherine in the middle of Grand Prix week?
Or would we be outside in that cosmopolitan crowd
of pilgrims, blissfully unmasked,
blissfully unaware of the moment of Spiritual revolution
about to be unleashed on the world?
Or are we the baker, trying to sell our bread
to the festival goers, and a little harrumphed
that this Galilean yokel has stalled the crowd
with his appetite killing stump speech?
Or, are we with Luke, the writer of this tale,
sitting somewhere in Antioch perhaps,
with scraps of second-hand memories,
passed on like Grandma’s recipes,
and Grandpa’s bed-time stories
of that time, now decades ago,
when some mystical movement,
some firing of spiritual imagination
compelled Peter and Mary,
Andrew, James, Joanna,
to trust the fire in their belly,
their gut churning belief
that Jesus’ Dream of God
was worth living, and telling, still?
Where are you?
Do you even want to be pinned down
into this tale at all?
Is it all a bit too odd, fanciful?
A bit to then and there, not here and now?
Or is it a bit too close for comfort?
I for one, hear the fear in the text
this year way more,
for not being caught up in paper wind-catchers
and multi-generational festival shenanigans,
but also because
perhaps more than ever,
I am yearning,
maybe you are too,
for a future more life-filled, and hopeful,
and more peaceful, more just,
than the recent present.
This year it feels good
to leave aside the mystical, almost
magical literality of this text,
to focus more on the Spirit herself,
the purposeful urgency for God-wide justice
that Luke’s pen can only partially capture or convey,
with his fierce wind and tongues of fire,
and polyglot comprehension.
And it’s when we ask that question
“where are you when God’s Spirit blows through?”
that we realize that deeper than the literal gymnastics
is a truth, some, no many,
I posed this question to our Midrash
Bible study group,
and once the first story was told,
in that lock-down Zoom room,
we knew there were tongues of fire
on all who shared, simple stories
amazing stories of personal Pentecosts.
Without naming names,
or divulging personal details,
the stories shared included
sitting in the sanctuary at CPU
for the first time decades ago now,
listening to a sermon that was
“as if it was speaking only to them.”
The Spirit speaking in soul languages
understood by complete newcomers.
Hearing a particular song that weaves
its way so deep into the heart
that it reshapes a person’s vocational choices.
Experiencing the fear of the night after the Quebec Mosque
attack, and feeling a compulsion to cross
the threshold for the first time, of a Mosque
to join in a vigil of prayer for peace.
Fearful of what to do, and being
completely blown away (!) by an upper room,
where God’s Dream of peace was spoken
in every faith, and none, in every language.
Hearing the clarifying voice of the Spirit
in birdsong in a forest,
that grounds the flitting of anxiety
into the strength of Creation’s Maker.
So many stories we decided we should invite
all of you, wherever you are,
to ask yourself the same question:
Where were you when the Spirit blew through?
How has it fueled you with courage to face into a fear?
How has she blown you into the path of companions
for a particular chapter of your journey?
Has she mystified you, or clarified a sense of purpose?
Have there been moments of such deep committed joy
in the labour of heart or hands that you know in your bones
you were meant for that moment, and it was meant for you?
I’d love for you to try this, as you mark this
much more personal Pentecost day
wherever you are:
Pick up a pen, or a crayon, or paints,
and doodle, draw, or colour in something,
(perhaps even this Spirit flame doodle
you can download, print and colour).*
Or take a walk, or knit, or knead dough,
do something to engage part of your body
in some repetitive rhythm and focus.
And while your body is occupied in rhythmic focus,
let that question roll around in your mind, heart, gut and soul.
Where were you when the Spirit blew through?
What was your Pentecost?
How will Spirit blow through you, now?
What courage to face your fears will her flame fuel in you,
for the sake of
the Dream of God?
Because of this I am certain,